Quick Strikes: Yesterday was declared Willie O’Ree Day in Boston to honor the first black NHL player

60 years ago, O’Ree played his first NHL game.

The Game: Willie O’Ree Day

It’s rare that we don’t lead with news about the Tampa Bay Lightning, but yesterday marked a pretty important event, and we’d be remiss not to point it out. In honor of the 60th anniversary of Willie O’Ree’s first NHL game, the Mayor of Boston declared January 18, 2018 to be Willie O’Ree Day. (The result of his first game and the result of the Boston-Montreal game in which he was honored had the same result, incidentally — a Bruins victory.)

The Tampa Bay Lightning no longer have a non-white player in the lineup with JT Brown getting picked up on waivers by the Anaheim Ducks, and time will tell if Mathieu Joseph or Daniel Walcott earn NHL berths (thank you for being diverse, Syracuse!). But until then, we’re going to celebrate all the victories we can for a better, less homogeneous NHL.

Boston honors pioneer Willie O’Ree on 60th anniversary of Bruins forward breaking NHL’s color barrier. “At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day.” O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.” [Mass Live]

Willie O’Ree’s little-known journey to break the NHL’s color barrier. “On Jan. 18, 1958, O’Ree — a 22-year-old forward from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada — became the first black person to play in a National Hockey League game.” [National Post]

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of Willie O’Ree’s groundbreaking NHL debut. “When he made his debut at 22, he had no idea what kind of impact he was making. ‘I wasn’t aware until the next day when I read it in the paper.’” [660 News]

How on Earth is Willie O’Ree not in the Hockey Hall of Fame? “As the first black man to play in the NHL and as an inspiration for so many diverse young people to play hockey, Willie O’Ree should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. At a minimum, he should have his number 22 retired by the Bruins.” [SCOC]

Why isn’t Willie O’Ree, who broke NHL’s color barrier 60 years ago, in Hall of Fame? “While all these honors and tributes are more than well-deserved for O’Ree, they also serve as a reminder that the 82-year-old still hasn’t been celebrated with hockey’s ultimate honor, one that he also more than deserves: An induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.” [CBS Sports]

Capitals rookie Madison Bowey honors NHL pioneer Willie O’Ree by wearing No. 22. “It’s pretty special to be in the NHL and playing my first NHL year on the 60th anniversary of Willie O’Ree,” Bowey said Thursday. “There’s a lot of significance behind that, and obviously he’s a very special person.” [Washington Post]

The Bolts

In Matt’s words:

First, let me state that Tampa Bay has built a cushion of points for a dip in play (that many of us expected to come at some point this season).

Aside from that, Tampa has not looked sharp since the new year has rung in. Their only ‘impressive’ win would be their victory over Toronto on January 2nd. The Detroit win was ok, but it’s Detroit (they’re 22 points behind Tampa Bay). The Carolina game had many of the same issues that were apparent in this game, sans one factor—Victor Hedman.

Tampa lost to a Montreal team (in a shootout) that has had one of the worst cases of identity crises the league has seen. They were blown out by an Ottawa team that has had trouble scoring all season, and they were handled by a Calgary team that finally had found some consistency to its game. Add in Vegas’ season sweep and Tampa has looked less like a juggernaut and more like a team trying to get itself out of a rut.

That could be exactly what this is though—a rut.

Read the rest of the recap here. [Raw Charge]

Thoughts on Slater Koekkoek and the future of the Tampa Bay Lightning blue line. “In my mind, that leaves Coburn as the player that Koekkoek could potentially replace. He only has a year remaining on his contract with a $3.7 million cap hit. His full no-trade clause that he has had in the first two seasons of his three-year deal turns into a modified no-trade clause on July 1st, 2018 when he has to submit a list of 16 teams he would accept a trade to.” [Raw Charge]

With Victor Hedman out, Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek finally gets chance to prove himself. “Since Koekkoek, 23, was picked 10th overall by the Lightning in the 2012 draft, the puck-moving defenseman has struggled to find consistent footing in the league. The three shoulder surgeries certainly have hurt his efforts. General manager Steve Yzerman said the Lightning hoped Koekkoek could have been the sixth defenseman at the start of last season but he wasn’t ready.” [TBT]

‘Piratically speaking,’ NHL thrilled to don Gasparilla garb for All-Star Game. “This is a huge deal,” said Christopher Lykes, captain of festival sponsor the Krewe of Gasparilla. “And maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity.” [TBT]

Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure. “I can’t get too comfortable,” Conacher said. “Obviously, there’s guys batting down there in Syracuse for spots up here as well. So I just got to try and just play the same way. Take each day the same way. Come to practice ready to play and try to build chemistry with the guys I’m with.” [TBO]

The Prospects

Syracuse Crunch Showcasing Lightning’s Bright Future. “After acquiring Domingue, the Crunch immediately went on a 10-game winning streak then followed that up with a seven-game streak just a few weeks later. During these steaks, the Crunch went from a team making rookie mistakes to a group capitalizing on their skill-sets. Even with veterans like Domingue and Cory Conacher earning NHL call-ups, the Crunch have continued to win in impressive fashion.” [THW]

Syracuse Crunch recalls forward as injuries keep piling up. “Kevin Lynch was the latest to head to the training room, getting hurt in Wednesday’s loss at Belleville. Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois did not know how long he’ll be out, although he said it’s likely longer than day-to-day.” [Syracuse.com]